When we view the night sky we have two basic choices: to be dumbstruck by infinite chaos, or to superimpose a mythology.
The miracles that follow me all day
Draw half their breath from my imagination.
E.g., these barren branches, witch-bone gray,
Claw wildly at the wind… Each rock formation
Discloses Lincoln. Clouds find Santa Claus.
And so on: marvels of the merely here.
And once you know them, dark and light, obtuse
And vivid, each way stunning, they appear
All miracle, all–why not?–lucky. (Hint:
Some days you have to tilt your head and squint.)
Journal excerpt from November 11, 2013:
….We seem to think we need “miracles” to support our faith in the eternal. But what we really seem to be asking for are NEW miracles: weird stuff we’ve never seen before, like, I don’t know, the Second Coming, or a talking cow. But how must it have felt, and how it must still feel to every child—oh, what a miracle FIRE must always seem to anyone first discovering it.
acceptance, apophenia, autism, choice, comfort, family, grief, grokking, Hannah, illusion, journal, loss, love, memory, metaphor, motherhood, quote, robert heinlein, serendipity, slice of life, thinking out loud, zen
Journal entry, August 28, 2014
Cleaning house yesterday, on a forgotten shelf I found a shirt of Hannah’s. A stretchy Goodwill t-shirt, powder blue, with folksy flower-seed-packet art on the front. Minor stains, of course, plus a hole in the back collar where someone (I?) had clumsily lopped off the tag. [Shirt tags made Hannah itch.] I held the shirt to my face and breathed it in like an idiot seeking the flowers. But no, it was just that the shirtfront–and then the shirt’s inside–was the only part that hadn’t been exposed to nine years of dust.
And I believed the shirt still smelled like Hannah, believed that I could know–could grok*–her presence, her self, merely through these greedy inhalations of not-quite-random air. I sat on my bedroom floor and pulled the shirt onto my head (think of a blind bank-robber), and then, to a point far past absurdity and fast approaching asphyxia, I breathed in and out its ineffably Hannah smell. (Must, dust, detergent, every mundane staleness, but something of her there too–something.) I chose to feel myself awash in her essence. As in the many dreams I’d dreamed, hope-caught, throughout her life, I felt free once more to slip beneath the surface of Hannah’s embryonic, oceanic world, and to breathe, however feebly, underwater.
I chose to feel–and to believe–all this on such a primal level that the mind had no clue of the choice till it was made. But with a shrug, quite used by now to the heart’s vagaries, the mind humored us both. I nuzzled for one last deep second against the thread-worn seams that defined the shirt’s armpits. Then I pulled the shirt off and held it awhile. I dusted it, refolded it, and–ah, my darling girl, now what to do? Replace it on the forgotten shelf? Cleave it into rags? Throw it away? I couldn’t, can’t, decide this yet.
Ah yes, but still, how well I know: let go, let go, let go, let go.
Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed—to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience. It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science—and it means as little to us (because of our Earthling assumptions) as color means to a blind man.
accident, apophenia, art, both, coincidence, freedom, illusion, James Lawley, Leonardo da Vinci, metaphor, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, pareidolia, quotation, randomness, serendipity, transience, wabi sabi, writing, zen
[Pareidolia is ‘a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant, a form of apophenia.’]
From wikipedia: In his notebooks, Leonardo da Vinci wrote of pareidolia as a device for painters:
“If you look at any walls spotted with various stains or with a mixture of different kinds of stones, if you are about to invent some scene you will be able to see in it a resemblance to various different landscapes adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, wide valleys, and various groups of hills. You will also be able to see divers combats and figures in quick movement, and strange expressions of faces, and outlandish costumes, and an infinite number of things which you can then reduce into separate and well conceived forms.”
“Half the time I hate Black Swans, the other half I love them. I like the randomness that produces the texture of life, the positive accidents, the success of Apelles the painter, the potential gifts you do not have to pay for. Few understand the beauty in the story of Apelles; in fact, most people exercise their error avoidance by repressing the Apelles in them.”
–Nassim Taleb, The Black Swan
“Maximize serendipity: “A strategy of seeking gains by collecting positive accidents from maximising exposure to ‘good Black Swans’.” (p. 307, Taleb) Taleb calls this an “Apelles-style strategy”. Apelles the Painter was a Greek who, try as he might, could not depict the foam from a horse’s mouth. In irritation he gave up and threw the sponge he used to clean his brush at the picture. Where the sponge hit, it left a beautiful representation of foam. –James Lawley (source: http://www.cleanlanguage.co.uk/articles/articles/218/2/Black-Swan-Logic/Page2.html)